For the past year, our mailbox has been flooded with letters for my 17-year-old daughter. College brochures after brochures arrive in the mail daily. It feels almost like colleges across the nation are wooing her like besotted lovers. Considering how expensive the college tuition in the US is, it is not unusual for colleges to woo most 11th and 12th graders. College Board for the year 2013-14 estimated a budget of an in-state or public college at around $22,300 per year and private colleges at around $45,000 per year.
As she stays up nights and prepares for her SAT and ACT exams, we, her parents, are going through the stress that most parents of children who are about to apply to college do. What if she doesn’t get good grades? What if she doesn’t get admission to any college? What are her options? So many what ifs… they take me back to the time when I was taking the 10th board exams.
I remember the nerve- wracking 10th board exams as if I had taken them just yesterday. How can one forget the stressfilled days and the constant cups of tea to help keep awake as we pulled an all nighter to study? In those days, our future rode on the grades we got in the 10th board exams. The preparation for the exams would start from the day we entered 9th grade. Tuitions and extra classes in school were the norm. Any tenth grader who dared to have fun was frowned upon.
In those anxiety-ridden days there still was humour in everyday life. I would hide Archie comics or maybe Mills & Boons in my textbooks and pretend to study. Many a times, the novel would fall out in front of my mother and I would get in a lot of trouble for not studying. Sometimes I would tell my family not to disturb me as I was studying but instead I would take a nap till their knocking on my door would pull me out of slumber. The sleep lines on my face had their own tale to tell. Exam taking also came with tried and tested rituals. A friend of mine would wear her PT uniform when she went to take her exams because she considered the uniform lucky. Another friend stopped at a temple before she headed to the exam centre. I would eat rock sugar or mishri before leaving the house.
Now as I hand a piece of mishri to my daughter as she goes to take her exam, I realise that life has come full circle. I begin to understand the anxiety my parents went through as I took my exams and waited to get accepted to college. They must have gone through all the “what ifs” about my future just as I am going through mine for my child and she will some day go through hers with her children. Such is the circle of life.
Sona Sethi is a US-based freelance writer.